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GOP lawmakers accuse Democrats of manipulating legislative process on gun-control bills

Four guns are seen near the site of a Dec. 4, 2015, shootout between police and suspects in San Bernardino. (San Bernardino County Sherrif's Department / Getty Images)
Four guns are seen near the site of a Dec. 4, 2015, shootout between police and suspects in San Bernardino. (San Bernardino County Sherrif's Department / Getty Images)

A Senate panel approved a batch of new gun-control bills Tuesday while opponents objected that lawmakers manipulated the legislative process by taking measures unrelated to firearms that have been through committees, gutting the bills and inserting new language to restrict weapons.

During a committee hearing, Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) accused Democratic colleagues of “political gamesmanship to hijack the process and limit public participation.”

Democratic leaders rewrote bills left behind when former Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno) resigned from office to work for Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The measures approved by the Senate Public Safety Committee include one requiring registration of homemade guns, also known “ghost guns” because they are not registered with serial numbers that can be tracked.

AB 857 passed six committees and the full Assembly as a bill setting priorities for California’s Clean Truck, Bus and Off-Road Vehicle and Equipment Technology Program.

But after Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom proposed a ballot measure to regulate firearms, Democratic leaders worried that similar bills might not garner sufficient support in the Assembly, where members may prefer to instead let voters decide such controversial measures.

By putting bills through a gut-and-amend process, sponsors may be able to bypass some committees in the Assembly where gun control has not been welcomed in the past, complained Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego).

“That does decrease the public’s ability to give input,” Anderson said during the hearing.

“There is no chicanery involved,” responded Senate President Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) a coauthor of the “ghost gun” bill. “I don’t think anything is being circumvented when we are having a Public Safety Committee hearing where the public can testify.”

The manuevers were also denounced as “an abuse of the legislative process,” by Craig DeLuz, legislative advocate for the Firearms Policy Coalition. “It is shameful legislative leadership would invoke such extraordinary procedures just to shove more anti-civil-rights legislation into an already overflowing hopper,” he said.

Other bills approved by the committee would make gun theft a felony, require background checks for those who buy ammunition, and restrict owners from loaning firearms to other people. The ammunition bill, De León said, is needed “to ensure that criminals and other dangerous individuals cannot purchase ammunition.”

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